What’s the Difference Between Air Barriers and Vapor Barriers?

What is the difference between an air barrier and a vapor barrier? | via TAPED, the ECHOtape blogAir barriers are an extremely important component of high-performance buildings. For the most part, these systems are non-maintainable, which means that repairs can only be made by removing the exterior cladding. Sure, older buildings can be retrofitted to improve air sealing, but the truth is: You only get one chance to get it right.

The same cannot be said about vapor barriers. Although the two are often confused, each has a very different function to perform in the building assembly. Understanding the core differences are paramount to building the high performing homes of the future.

What Is An Air Barrier?

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How Does California Title 24 Impact Builders and Contractors?

How California Title 24 Affects You | via TAPED, the ECHOtape blogCalifornia regulators have established an ambitious policy goal: Beginning in 2020, all new homes in the state must be designed for net-zero-energy operation.

Known as “Title 24,” the newest standards will go into effect on January 1, 2017, and set minimum energy-saving requirements for new buildings and renovations that will reduce energy used for lighting, heating, cooling, ventilation, and water heating.

With tens of thousands of homes built every year in California, the energy savings will add up to big environmental benefits: for buildings constructed and retrofitted in 2017 alone, the CEC found that standards will cut energy use by about 281 gigawatt hours of electricity and 16 million therms of natural gas per year, reducing harmful carbon dioxide pollution emissions by about 160,000 metric tons per year. After 30 years of construction, the CEC estimates that these savings will add up to the equivalent energy use of twelve large power plants.

Title 24 is only law in California, but it often paves the way for new regulation throughout the U.S. The law covers many energy-related construction matters such as roofing, windows, insulation, lighting and HVAC systems. Here’s what you need to know:

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6 Reasons Why Contractors Should Choose Tape Over Glue

For more than 40 years we have been solving tape challenges around the world by engineering tapes for specific applications,  matching the right product for the job at hand. And after all this time our tape is still on a roll; literally and figuratively.  In fact, the right adhesive tapes can go further than it’s liquid cousins, glue and sealants.

Don’t believe us? Consider this: Adhesive technology has improved significantly over the past 10 years.  Thanks to science and engineering, 21st Century tapes are so strong, providing such high-performance bonding in such extreme conditions that tape is now the premier fastener used in everything from space vehicles to hurricane-proof roofing.

The automotive industry was, perhaps, the first to embrace the tape trend. Manufacturers have now replaced a large percent of fasteners in cars with tape. The result? Lighter weight cars with less punctures and holes resulting in higher energy (gas!) efficiency.
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Air Sealing and The Zero Energy Ready Building Envelope

Air Sealing and The Zero Energy Ready Building Envelope | via TAPED, the ECHOtape blog
Defining the Thermal Boundary and Air Sealing the Zero Energy Ready Building Envelope. | Image via ZeroEnergyProject.org

“Build it tight, vent it right.” It’s a phrase commonly used by high performance building experts to describe the two most crucial design tenants of energy-efficient home construction.

Without a virtually airtight, well-insulated building envelope, achieving the energy performance levels required for Zero Energy Ready Homes is nearly impossible without a massive investment in renewable energy systems.

The good news for builders is that getting the building envelope right is one of the lower-cost, higher-return investments when designing for net-zero performance. It all boils down to good building practices.

According to ProBuilder.com, to make air sealing your top priority, concentrate on insulation. “Focus on sealing the areas along the top and bottom plates, particularly around the perimeter in the attic area and along the foundation, whether it’s a basement, crawlspace, or slab, so that you’re not getting convective loops in your walls.”

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Warning: 6 Reasons Not To Use Duct Tape

Duct Tape Alternatives | via TAPED, the ECHOtape blogWe get it:  Duct tape is a versatile tool on virtually any jobsite.  Designed to provide a strong, versatile, quick-stick solution for demanding applications, duct tape is often cited as the top go-to tape for contractors. From surface protection to mold and asbestos remediation to more specialized applications such as masking stucco, its uses are nearly endless.  However, duct tape does have its limits. (Check out the 10 most common surface problems here.) 

Here are the top six conditions where duct tape falls short and what adhesive tape you should be using instead.

1. Heat (i.e. sealing or repairing HVAC ducts; sealing holes in a furnace or air handler)

Despite its name, standard issue duct tape is actually not a good choice for sealing or repairing heating and ventilation ducts. The heat softens the adhesive, causes it to lose its strength and slip from the attachment and causing a sticky mess on the ducts surface. It also carries no safety certification (you need UL 181 for HVAC applications) , which means it may burn and produce toxic smoke. (For that reason duct tape is not allowed at all on ducts in states such as California.)

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5 Reasons to Choose Aluminum Foil Tape

5 Reasons To Choose Foil Tape for High Performance Building Projects | via TAPED, the ECHOtape blog

Combine the versatility of aluminum and the weather-resistant sealing power of pressure sensitive adhesive and you have an extremely versatile product. So much, in fact, that aluminum foil tape is used in the aerospace industry, thanks to its moisture and chemical resistance, thermal conductivity, flame resistance, heat and light reflectance, and weatherability. However, not all foil tapes are created equal, especially when it comes to performing in varied conditions.  

Here are the five reasons ECHOtape’s aluminum foil tape may just be the right tool for the task at hand.

1. UL 723 rated and meets International Building Code standards

UL 723 is a test to measure the surface burning properties of building materials. In particular it looks at the rate of flame spread and the density of smoke developed. In order to meet the International Building Code’s definition of fire-resistant, a composite material must have a flame spread rating no greater than 50. ECHOTape’s All Purpose Aluminum Foil Tape has a flame spread rating of 0 and smoked developed rating of 0. This is worth noting because not all cloth-backed duct tapes or foil tapes are UL 723 rated.

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How Realistic Are Zero Energy Ready Homes?

How Realistic Are Zero Energy Ready Homes | via TAPED, the ECHOtape blogWe’ve seen the future of home building and it’s got one thing in common: zero.  As in Zero Energy Ready Homes.  This type of home, which outperforms standard buildings and delivers the opportunity for ultra-low or nonexistent energy bills, is also an exciting growth industry. While a relatively small percentage of home builders are constructing them today, their popularity will likely keep rising as their success becomes well known.

In plain English, a zero energy home is not just a “green home” or a home with solar panels. Zero energy homes are ultra-comfortable, healthy, quiet, sustainable homes that are affordable to live in. They are regular grid-tied homes that are so air-tight, well insulated, and energy efficient that they produce as much renewable energy as they consume over the course of a year, leaving the occupants with a net zero energy bill, and a carbon-free home.  

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Listen Up! 9 Great Podcasts for Construction Pros

Construction Podcasts - Are You Listening | via TAPED, the ECHotape blogOn average, contractors spend about about 51 minutes commuting each day, so why not mix up your daily dose of sports talk radio? Podcasts are basically radio shows you can download to your phone or tablet and take with you anywhere; plus, they are a great way to keep you entertained and informed during your drive time.

To get started, we rounded up 9 of our favorite construction podcasts:

  1. Building Performance Podcast.  Hosted by Corbett Lunsford of the Building Performance Workshop, this interview series draws on the experience and ideas of high performance building pros around the world. Think engineers, policy makers, contractors, diagnosticians, architects, and building managers, among others.
  2. ConTechTrio.  If you haven’t had a chance to listen to this show yet, check it out! Rob McKinney (@conappguru), James Benham (@JamesMBenham), and Josh Bone (@BIM2theBone) discuss the latest construction news and are typically joined by a heavy hitter in the construction tech world.  All 3 hosts are part of the JB Knowledge team, which created products like Smart Bid Net, Smart Compliance, Smart Reality, and Smart Insight.

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Market Research for Dummies

Getting Closer to Customers | via TAPED, the ECHOtape blogTraditionally, when large companies develop an idea, whether it’s a new product or a redesigned website, they start by hiring a market research firm to gather data about the segment and make recommendations before going to R&D. It’s a strategic, methodical approach… that is also incredibly expensive and time consuming.

Small companies like ours simply don’t have the resources for that, which makes it very tempting to skip market research all together and just dive right into the development stage.  Don’t!

You’re not going to succeed without doing research. How else are you going to find out if there will be any kind of demand for your idea? Who will want to buy it? What size is that market? How might you position yourself relative to competitors?

How do we get closer to consumers and their pain points?

We are asking those questions every day here at ECHOtape, and we are testing some new research channels.  For example, we are working with a digital agency who is helping us leverage LinkedIn, content and search. As part of that effort, we have an online campaign that sends a free roll of specialty tape to key markets in exchange for feedback and information about how customers are using our tape.

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To Suit or Not to Suit – ECHOtape digs in to the Dress Code Debate

echotape-do-dress-codes-really-matter | via TAPED, the ECHOtape blog
Image via RoofingContractor.com

For many years, ECHOtape’s dress code has been Business Casual with the requisite Jean Friday. As a manufacturing company with warehouse and production space,  ties and high heels pose a significant safety hazard.  But recently, my daughter switched jobs and it has me thinking about office dress codes.

For the past few years, she’s worked in a millennial-centric workplace. Mostly jean casual, but with a hipster flair, trendy shoes or pink braid extensions. But then she got a job with Morgan Stanley, where the mantra seems to be, “You are only as good as your tailor.” Bye-bye denim. Hello, pencil skirt and peep toe pumps.  She loves the job, hates the dress code.

Which makes me wonder… what is the norm?

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The Case for Continuous Insulation Heats Up

Recently, we attended a Continuous Insulation webinar put on by Owens Corning for the ICAA,  and we loved this opening analogy by Drew Clausen:

Imagine you are traveling up in northern Wisconsin. Your car breaks down and it’s the middle of winter.  You get out of the car to inspect the problem and quickly realize:  You are cold.  Why? Because this is your jacket.  All your heat is escaping from the holes.


Then Rufus jumps out of the car to see what’s going on. Rufus is not cold. He is completely warm. Then again, his body is encased in a continue layer of fur, thermal and moisture resistant fur. That’s the idea behind continuous insulation.

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ECHOtape Partners with Babson College

Babson College MBA Students Gather to Address Residential Construction Growth | via TAPED, the ECHOtape blogGrowing any business is a challenge. We realized early in ECHOtape’s 40-year history that for our small business to grow, we needed a steady stream of ideas.  Most often, those ideas came from customers who had real-world problems that needed an adhesive solution. That’s been our core business model for decades, but as we ready ourselves for the next phase of corporate growth, we decided to look elsewhere for new ideas. One of those places is academia.

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